BostonBruins.com — It is a staple of every summer. Every year, as the end of August approaches, the New England sports scene bands together in order to raise money and awareness for a most worthy cause: cancer research.
This year, the 13th Annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon takes place on August 19 and 20 at Fenway Park. Over the last 12 years, the event has raised a total of more than $34 million. Throughout the span of 36 hours, the Radio-Telethon — which has become one of the Jimmy Fund’s largest annual fundraisers — features emotional stories and anecdotes from Dana-Farber patients, doctors and more, as well as visits from a plethora of New England athletes, coaches, managers and front office personnel.
On the first day of the telethon, Bruins principal Charlie Jacobs, goaltender Tuukka Rask and forwards Loui Eriksson and Daniel Paille stopped by Fenway Park to support the event and encourage participation.
“Every single dollar matters, so whatever you can donate [helps],” Rask said.
Last week, the goalie visited patients at The Jimmy Fund and was touched by the experience, and by several of the young patients he met.
“That was my second time in the clinic there — it was a great day,” he said. “Not too many kids there, which is always good. They’re going through tough times, and once you go there, you see their faces brighten up. You realize what a difference a little thing makes — you going to visit them. It just makes their day.
“I think the biggest thing for you is that you forget about your own worries and how good things are in your life, and you just learn how to cherish the little things in your life.”
In addition to players visiting patients at The Jimmy Fund, Jacobs pledged a $25,000 donation on behalf of the Boston Bruins.
Since the day he arrived in Boston, he has been an active supporter of The Jimmy Fund.
“I’m roughly 12 years a Bostonian, and it really struck me the first day I set foot and learned more about The Jimmy Fund,” Jacobs said. “I mean, yes, it’s a national program. But it has really deep roots here in the Commonwealth. I can recall my first visits of any kind being to Dana Farber and Brigham and Women’s, and just seeing all the different, really tragic cases, frankly, of not only adults but a lot of children and what they were suffering from. I was really struck by what the efforts of The Jimmy Fund are, and how it touches so many different lives.”
The organization’s enthusiasm for supporting The Jimmy Fund starts from the top — and though that enthusiasm makes Jacobs proud, it doesn’t necessarily surprise him.
“In general, when you speak about hockey players, they really get it,” he said. “They care about the community, they care about the franchise and they care about each other inside the room. I love that about our sport.”
Paille is one player who serves as a prime example of that mentality.
“The Bruins give a lot of time to the community, especially The Jimmy Fund,” he said. “For myself, I’ve worked with The Jimmy Fund in the past. It’s one of the most world-renowned funds, so to me, it’s just special to be here and just kind of be a part of everything, with the donations and seeing the patients here, while we’re here. I think it just brings a little joy to them and [gives them] something a little special.”
A large part of the Bruins identity is a willingness to be proactive in the community and give back whenever possible, and that is a part of the Bruins identity Paille is most proud of.
“As players, it’s our responsibility to help out as much as we can,” he said. “Just what [the kids] going through at this stage — it seems that they’ve got a lot more strength than we do. When we talk to them, they still have a lot of joy and happiness in their faces, and I’ve only met a few of them so far but i’m looking forward to seeing some more.”
Over the years, Paille has seen how athletes’ involvement in The Jimmy Fund has increased awareness and perhaps even spurred action.
“When you see guys like Dustin Pedroia or other athletes speak about The Jimmy Fund, you can kind of see [people] put in the extra effort to make a contribution,” he said.
As the Green Monster-style scoreboard marking the total funds raised ticks higher and higher over the course of the next two days — last year, the grand total exceeded $3.5 million — thousands of people across New England can take pride in supporting research that will hopefully, one day soon, lead to a cure for cancer.
“It’s definitely important,” Eriksson said. “It’s never fun to see kids who are sick, and even adults. It’s never a fun thing. I’ve got kids myself, and you always want them to be healthy, so I think it’s a good thing to have The Jimmy Fund here. It’s great to have, and I think we can do a lot to make the kids [feel] better.
“The small [donations] help a lot. If you get more people to give, it helps a lot.”
And while patients at The Jimmy Fund may feel fortunate upon receiving a special visit from a professional athlete, the players, too, feel fortunate to have met such inspiring people.
“Just speaking to the patients — just to see it through their eyes, and the strength and joy that they bring — I envy them,” Paille said. “The way they handle these situations — I think everyone sees them as strong people, and we want to continue to support them.”
You can find more information about the telethon or to donate by visiting www.jimmyfundradiotelethon.org.
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